To Dust All Return

Paulina Knaak plays Amity Smith, a young woman in the 18th century who is suspected of witchcraft.

The Aptucxet Trading Post has landed a starring role in a short film written and directed by a film student in her senior year at the University of Rhode Island.

“To Dust All Return” is a student-led film by Alyssa Botelho, a Fairhaven resident who is majoring in film and media, as well as management.

The period piece is centered around a young woman named Amity who is living in colonial New England in 1710. Amity finds herself living alone after her mother is sent to a madhouse and her father is away from home on a presumed hunting excursion.

One evening, her father’s friend, Enoch, pays her a visit whereby he asks her questions about where her father is.

The ensuing events reveal the secrets of the home.

“I came up with the idea for the film by looking more into the colonial era and the Salem Witch Trials,” Ms. Botelho said. “I knew I wanted my next project to center around a young, strong female character who’s faced against great odds, and this seemed like the perfect time period to set her in.”

She said that when she was scouting locations for the film, she was drawn to the trading post after hearing about it from Sandwich filmmakers who had used the location for their own film.

“It looked breathtaking onscreen, and I knew it would be the perfect setting for ‘To Dust All Return,’” she said.

The Sandwich filmmakers gave her the contact information for Bourne Historical Society caretaker Gioia Dimock, who gave her a tour of the property.

Ms. Botelho said the 1628 replica building fits well with the time period her story is set in.

“The fireplace is almost like a third main character in this film, so finding one that was large and authentic-looking was huge,” she said.

Filming during a pandemic was organized chaos, she said.

Creating a film involves balancing many things at once, but adding the health considerations meant that the crew also had to collect COVID-19 test results, enforce masking and social distancing, and pay extra attention while sanitizing props and costume pieces.

“There’s a lot that can slow you down and pull your focus away when you’re trying to get all the shots you need,” Ms. Botelho said. “Add in the period piece aspect and you can see why I describe it as organized chaos.”

She said her team is amazing and they all had a serious mindset going into the filming process, which helped with balancing all the chaos.

Ms. Botelho said that even though it is a student-led film, she would not consider it to be a student project because of the professional attitude the cast and crew maintained throughout.

After graduating from URI, Ms. Botelho said she aspires to become a screenwriter or film director.

“These are some of the most competitive positions in the industry, so I take every project very seriously,” she said. “Your work speaks for yourself, and you never know who will end up seeing it.”

She said some of the biggest names in Hollywood are people who got their start by showing their short film to the right people.

“To Dust All Return” clocks in at about eight minutes in length.

Filming for the piece is completed, and now Ms. Botelho and her production team are working on editing and finishing the film. It will premier at the University of Rhode Island Film and Media Screening in May.

Ms. Botelho will then enter it into film festivals around the world.

The film will be screened at Fairhaven Town Hall on Friday, October 1.

Anyone wishing to support Ms. Botelho and “To Dust All Return” may do so at www.igg.me/at/todustallreturn.

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